From Facebook to Faceplant

If I ever have the opportunity to meet Mark Zuckerberg, the credited founder of Facebook, I will offer him only one well conceived and highly original thought:

Ever consider a ‘dislike’ button?

But it’s doubtful that ole’ Mark, and his estimated 33.1 billion dollars in personal wealth, hangs out in the same places I do. Although, he apparently lives in Palo Alto, CA which is less than 20 miles from my hometown, so there’s always a chance.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, or perhaps the click of a mouse, social media has become one of the most influential concepts of the modern day. It’s part of the fiber we use to construct our cloth in many aspects of our lives. We use it to reconnect with old friends, to market our business, to share our deepest thoughts and dreams, and to remind those people around us that “my kids are cuter than yours”, “trips to the dump can be exciting” and my personal favorite this morning “it’s raining and we got all wet“.

Duh.

Just like the internet, social media is here to stay.  In fact, it’s influence has been so wide spread that it has changed our acceptable vernacular. Consider that eight years ago “tweeting” was something that only birds did, “pinning” something involved thumbtacks and a cork-board, and “following” someone day in and day out could land you in jail.

Not anymore.

On the professional side, the social media world requires management – serious management. For the first time in our office’s history, this week’s staff meeting included the leadership implementing a written “social media policy” to outline what is, and what is not, acceptable online behavior as upstanding representatives of the office.  Some of it is easy – no naming patients, no bad mouthing the office, no posting pictures for which the required release is not yet in hand. The concepts that exist more in the gray zone though were venting – in vague terms – about something happening in the office.  Perhaps a poor working relationship with a co-worker or a strong dislike of the new computer software, or even venting about a comment made by an employer, a co-worker, a patient, a parent, or even the janitor. It really doesn’t matter what you’re discussing, it’s work related and you’re putting it out there.  This, of course, brings me to the biggest conundrum of social media – where do we draw the line?

In doing some research this week I’ve discovered one common theme in how employers manage their employee’s online activities:  Err on the side of caution.

Translation: These days most employers and business owners have a zero tolerance policy for online behaviors they deem hurtful or damaging to themselves or their businesses. Yes, you can be fired for bad-mouthing your boss, your co-workers, or your job on the internet.

Buffet

Developmental Optometrists and Vision Therapists spend years building a reputation – hopefully a good one. We spend years in the circles of our community trying to help people. There’s outreach, there’s lectures, there’s studies, and of course, there’s the patients.  Everyday is yet another small piece of that forever growing reputation. Everyday is an opportunity to exude goodwill to our friends, patients, and colleagues. When it comes to employees and co-workers and how their online behavior affects our reputation, one other fact is also true, at least for most of us:

Your social media faceplant will not be our downfall.

Perception is everything. Absolutely, positively, without question – everything. If a parent decides before they allow a relative stranger to work with their child to “Google” your name, what will they find?  Hopefully all positive things. But how about that one ill-timed or “weak moment” post where you decided to rant about your job, or your friends added insult to injury by suggesting you do or say hurtful things to your co-workers. These comments probably were made in jest and in the spirit of an old friend appealing to your funny bone, but sadly that doesn’t translate in the written word.  Without the benefit of intonation or understanding the dynamics of our social media relationships, interpretation can be pretty broad and quite ambiguous – even hurtful.  And remember that parent who decided to look you up before trusting their child’s future to your skill set? Yeah, they’re about to cancel their appointments and go somewhere else.

How you manage your “online self” is ultimately your call.  After all, most sites these days make “privacy settings” optional.  Remember though that once your thoughts are out there, it’s a safe bet the world will see. Even if your better judgment convinces you to delete a “bad post” after a few minutes, someone probably took a screen shot of it and it will continue to circulate.  It’s just how it works.

My take away message with all of this is simple, just be smart.  Social media gives the entire world access to you, and you to it.  Trying to explain to a patient, or parent, or employer what you were trying to imply with “that post” cannot be fun.  Before you decide to rant, remember who your audience is and what they may think. My reputation as a good Vision Therapist and a positive influence is important to me and I work hard to ensure all is good in that area.  Hopefully, you feel the same.

After reading this you may consider me a bit paranoid, and that’s fine. I’d much rather be paranoid…than unemployed.

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Posted on November 22, 2014, in From My Perspective.... Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. While it may seem like just being smart is good enough, how much people choose to share with their social graph online is a very personal decision that differs from one generation to another, so the concept of common sense doesn’t hold water here. You wouldn’t need to actually name a patient to make a personal disclosure that violates patient privacy. Automatic time, date and geo stamps complicate the matter even more. HIPAA compliance requires a good social media policy and training.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Completely agree. My hope here was to be thought provoking to those who otherwise wouldn’t consider how their virtual thoughts may have far-reaching consequences. Policy and training are a good place to start. Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

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